Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Young Boys 3-2 Tottenham Hotspur

Spurs got a shock in the opening half an hour of their Champions League campaign going behind 3-0 to a vastly superior Young Boys (YB). The Swiss team dominated the opening phase of the game and took full advantage of a Spurs side who looked out of sorts on the artificial pitch.

One is always wary to blame the pitch in such circumstances as it takes credit away from YB but Spurs had an unusually high defensive line early on which allowed the midfielders to simply play the ball through and penetrate the English sides defence. The pitch helped YB in this tactic as the ball did not skid across the surface in the way that many of the Spurs players would have been used to and this allowed YB to take a 2-0 lead after on 15 minutes played.

Spurs then began to launch something of an attack and Defoe needed only a touch to put in a cross that came in from the left but this really wasn't Spurs half. This attack also did nothing to sure up the defensive frailties as only minutes later Gomes and Bassong collided after indecision on how to deal with a high ball. It was only a matter of time before YB would score again and they duly delivered on the 29th minute when the Spurs defence was exposed again and Hochstrasser left Bassong standing to cooly slot past Gomes.

Spurs manager Harry Redknapp knew that he would have to do something and decided not to wait until half-time. Assou-Ekotto (who had a howler) was replaced by Tom Huddlestone. Huddlestone took his place in central midfield as Bale moved back to left back and Modric took up Bale's place on the left-wing (see diagram on right). Such an early change would have unsettled a lot of teams but it seemed to inspire a degree of confidence that meant they did not concede again before half-time. In fact eight minutes after the substitution Spurs got a goal back much to the relief of players, manager and fans alike. The goal was a simple headed corner by Bassong but the effect was powerful.

YB were by far the better side overall in the first period despite being the happier side to hear the half-time whistle. Tactically they were more astute and really made use of the extra man they had in he midfield. Although he didn't score, the best player of that half was Costanzo who was a dominant figure in the centre of the pitch.

Spurs continued at the start of the second half with the dynamism they had shown at the end of the first and only two minutes in, a dangerous cross from Corluka had to be gathered by W├Âlfli in the YB goal. Spurs were by now playing a much more simple passing game that allowed them to retain possession for extended periods and was a far cry from the 'rabbit in the headlights' team that conceded three times in the first thirty minutes.

The game then began to even out but as we approached the final ten minutes Spurs looked like they wanted a second goal to take back to White Hart Lane in a weeks time. However it was YB who were presented with the chances to put the game out of sight. Within two minutes of each other, YB had fast-paced counter-attacks that left the Spurs defence for dead. On both occasions though YB substitute Schneuwly put the ball over the crossbar.

He would come to regret this minutes later as this time Spurs unlocked the YB defence down the right and Pavlyuchenko hammered the ball into the roof of the net from a tight angle; certainly the pick of the goals. From this point both teams looked relatively happy to sit back with the 3-2 scoreline and a great second leg now awaits us next week in North London.

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